Saturday, November 2, 2013

I should have posted this yesterday...

This post is mostly for my parents and Ami.

Hallow e'en was a couple of days ago.  The kids were really excited about about costumes and Trick-or-Treating, as usual.

Here are their costumes:

 Charlotte designed this year's pumpkin.  I usually make much more elaborate designs, but I have never received as many compliments on a pumpkin as I have this year.  That seals it.  Charlotte is now our official Pumpkin Designer.

We took the kids to a Haunted Forest attraction this year and it was fun watching the kids scamper through the decorated woods full of costumed characters during the "No Scare" hour.  Matthew attracted the attention of a couple of characters by yelling at the top of his lungs at them how he was not afraid of them.  Of course that meant they followed us for a while, teasing Matthew.  Poor buddy didn't sleep very well that night.

We don't get very many Trick or Treaters anymore and I have always wondered why.  I do know there is a church in town that hosts a "Harvest Party" but didn't think would ever attract enough numbers to cause a neighbourhood decline in Trick or Treating.  I think I have the answer now.  Our mall lets kids trick or treat on Hallow e'en night.  I got a text from my co-worker, who was doing the Thursday evening shift.  She had over 300 little ones go through the store to get treat bags.  The weather wasn't even bad!  It was a lovely night to go for a walk, but people seem to be choosing the mall instead.  It makes me a little sad.  I love seeing the little ones at my door in their costumes.  Heck, even the Teenagers at my door were really nice this year.  Are people more afraid of the cold or strangers??

I am old-fashioned (and lazy).  I would rather my kids walk outside, in the fresh air and say hi to the neighbours than drive across town to the mall to say hi to strangers in stores. (Also, that is my workplace now....why would I want to go there on my day off??)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Whine time.

I usually work short little weekday afternoon shifts at my job.  I try to take the bus as often as possible to reduce wear and tear as well as fuel consumption on my car.  It's easy to catch the bus for my afternoon shifts.  The stop I need is close to my house, the kids are gone and I can take my time getting ready.

Some days I am asked to open the store.  Given our city's bus schedule the stop I need to get to on those mornings is quite a but further from my house (1/2 km away, as opposed to about a block for the later stop).  I have yet to successfully catch a bus at the further stop, but today I was determined.  I got the kids ready.  I got myself ready.  We all walked out the door at the same time. I made it to the bus stop and stood there, in the rain, and watched as a City Transit vehicle drove PAST my stop at the time the schedule said it would pick me up. I waited a few more minutes, walked home, got in my car and made it to work in time to open the store.

I got in my car to go home and decided after my busy day with the extra-stressful morning I wanted some wine this evening.  I stopped at a nearby store on my way home and made my purchase and got back into my car.  My car wouldn't start.  I called auto club.  I waited.  I contemplated opening my wine.  I decided that opening the wine should wait until I know if I am a boost or a tow.

My car got boosted.  I got home.

I'm opening that wine now!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lego Land

Matthew loves his Lego.  He has been spending a lot of time with this pirate ship lately.  It is constantly undergoing changes and expansions and renovations.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

In Style? No Substance.

My mom reads quite a few magazines and she always passes them along to me when she's finished with them.  Usually they are things like Good Housekeeping, Canadian Living, Ladies Home Journal and the like.  The magazines all have a selection of advice columns, recipes, home decorating ideas and the like. There are also fashion layouts, but the clothes are usually pretty tame, and on the less-expensive end of the spectrum.

In my latest batch of magazines, In Style Magazine was at the top of the pile.  Now, I usually love paging through a fashion magazine to look at all of the pretty pictures.  Not this time.  This time, I started to feel really uncomfortable, bordering on annoyed.

I feel like the writing style of In Style magazine is designed to make you feel insecure.  To make you feel like you MUST do everything you can to try to look like the celebrities in the pictures or you will not fit in.  I was disappointed in the celebrity interview this month with actor Damian Lewis.  They gloss over the fact that despite the fact his family was poor,  he went to school at the prestigious Eton College, whose graduates include many British Prime ministers and members of the Royal Family.  How did he end up there?  What did he learn? Instead, they talk about the fashion designers he likes to wear.  He wanted to talk about the impact he is making on people through his latest role on TV as  an American soldier with PTSD, but instead he had to talk about the clothes he was wearing.

I counted 20 pages of ads for high-end brands at the front of the magazine before you even get to the table of contents--including a two-page spread for $1500 boots a beautiful actress is wearing.  There is no mention of the cost of the boots--or for the matching handbag in the ad hat also costs at least $1500.  How many In Style readers could afford those things?  The money spent on ONE of those things could cover my grocery budget for around six months.

Once you find the articles in the magazine they are not much better. One article, about breaking bad beauty habits just shows you how to substitute one expensive process for another.   Are you afraid of showing grey roots in public?  Don't pay for a full dye job all the time!  Schedule bi-weekly root touch up appointments!  There is no mention of another option: how to wean off the dye and rock your grey.  Hooked on blowouts?  Here are a list of products to buy.  How about instructions on how to cut your hair to show off the beauty of your natural texture?

Now, I love dressing up and playing with make up.  Heck, I work in a clothing store.  I put together outfits and try to get people to buy them as my job.  I don't make sales by making people feel insecure about NOT owning the clothes for sale in my store, though.

Maybe my problem is their brutal honesty at what they're doing.  The are unashamedly selling you stuff to look like celebrities and they are not afraid to admit it.  Other magazines sell their beauty spreads as "buy this so YOU feel like a better version of YOU" instead of "buy this because [current famous starlet] wore it once and [current famous starlet] is cool so that means if you wear this thing you'll be cool too".

Perhaps I should just respect In Style's commitment to superficiality and just hope that I am raising my own children to be confident enough that they won't feel the desperate need to buy whatever their favourite celebrities are wearing in the hopes it will help them make more friends.

I know I have done one thing right:  I have gotten in the habit of turning tabloid magazines to face backward in the newsstand when there are articles on the cover shaming people for how they look--now Charlotte does it too.
In Style, you are going to be the coolest kid in my recycling bin this week.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


This Thanksgiving weekend I'm thankful I have a handy husband who knows his way around a plumbing snake.  Laundry facilities have been restored!

In other news, I am trying to figure out how to work blogging into my routine lately.  It feels rather daunting to have to think up things to write when I often don't have  a lot of time at home to think deep thoughts.  I am going to try micro blogging for my three readers who are still here with me.

Would you guys be happy with random snippets of my life instead of a big long post?  Kind of like a feature-length Tweet?

Well, I am going to give it a try.

Friday, October 11, 2013

It's never a good thing.... discover your laundry room floor covered in water on the Friday of a long weekend.

The End.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Happy New Year!

Did I skip blogging in the whole month of August?

I don't need to ask how that happened.  As I mentioned in my last post, I found myself a little part-time job in a children's clothing store at the mall.  August is prime time for back to school shopping so I was working lots of extra hours.  Re-entering the workforce after a few years off on top of changing careers entirely has taken some adjusting from everyone in the family.

Once I get the hang of the retail world, there will be stories.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, this happened:

Now you are six.

This also happened:
I now have a fifth, third and first grader in my house.  This may be the last year Emmett has a helper with him at school, and this causes me worry, but I am hoping we can help him through the transition and that he has grown enough that he can learn to cope better on his own.  Another worry is how Matthew is going to handle full days of school given how he didn't enjoy half days very much at all.

Stay tuned.

Monday, July 29, 2013

It's That Time of Year Again....

...the time of year when the main source of food for my blog goes off on their annual summer adventure Way Up North with their grandparents and aunties and uncle.

This year our plan is to tear up the carpet in the office and replace it with some laminate flooring.  The carpet in that room is particularly disgusting given it is a high-traffic room and a favourite place for Lucy to go potty when she can't make it to the door in time.

I am also settling into a new job so I am not traveling far from home.  I got a little part-time gig selling clothes at childrens' clothing store in the mall.  It is fun, I get stuff for the kids, and my boss tells me I am one of her top sellers, which is baffling to me given my employment background trends to health care (and then fast food and cashier if you go back far enough).

In fun news, I did this while we were in the city dropping off the kids at Grandma and Grandpa's:
What are you up to this summer?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Meanwhile on Jen's other blog....

Check out my food blog to see what I've been up to in the kitchen lately! (It isn't pretty.)

Or, watch Emmett's most recent Lego animation video:

Today's story is about a pirate who washed up on shore, boat destroyed, and he was knocked out.  He woke up and started searching for his chest.  Then, the captain washed up on shore and tried to help him.

Emmett took around 800 pictures to make this video!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Fun

We are a week into Summer Break here.  My plan for the summer is to try to keep the kids off of the TV and video games before noon and work in a bit of remedial homeschooling (using The Summer Smart curriculum by the Popular Book Company) all while trying to keep the kids from killing each other.

There are also some boring grown up plans:  trying to eke a few vegetables out of my garden patch, replacing some flooring in the office, and oh, I am starting a new job at the mall today.  Eeek. 

The kids are looking forward to a  week of Mini-U  as well as their annual trip Way Up North.  In between they will spend time at the splash parks around the city and the lake by my Mom's house.

Homeschooling is not something that any of us enjoy, but given the look of the report cards, it will be a necessary part of our day as everyone has subjects they need to brush up on. (Including me!  Who knew grade 4 math was so hard???)

Emmett has recently discovered he can create stop-motion animation videos with his 3DS.  I can see this being a fun diversion for him during the day.  Here are a couple of his most recent creations:

 This video is called Lego Mario.  Mario enters a castle to conquer Bowser, but his plans are thwarted when he meets a Koopa.

 This video is called The Hammer.  It is about two guys who want to fight the seemingly unbeatable Hammer. The men get blocked by three Thugs and an epic battle ensues. 

What are you doing this summer?

Sunday, June 16, 2013


You started out so small.  You needed us for everything.
Now, you do stuff like make your own breakfast, play Minecraft and go to Scout Camp all by yourself.  You started out not talking to us at all.  Now all you do is talk about Mario, Yu Gi Oh and Pokemon (and Minecraft). You wear adult-sized shoes and are getting perilously close to being as tall as your Mom.
Ten years.  Time flies!

 Keep on growing, Buddy.

*There are two cakes because we had cupcakes as a family on his actual birthday, and I baked a cake for the party he had with his friends.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bread Bombing?

The following story happened not more than an hour ago and I still can't wrap my head around it.

This morning I gathered up my shopping list and re-usable bags and, like I do on many Saturday mornings, set off for my favourite grocery store to stock up for the week.

I pulled into the parking lot in the pouring rain and rushed to collect my bags and my shopping cart and hustled inside before I could get too wet.  In my haste, I forgot to lock my car door.  I remembered at the doorway of the store but decided I didn't want to double back to lock the car.  Chances were very much in my favour that the car would still be there when I got back, and if thieves want the 27 cents in the ash tray, Holiday CDs in the console  and random assortment of candy wrappers and bits of Sunday School crafts scattered around the interior of the car they are welcome to them.

I finished shopping and headed back out to the car to load up.  After loading the trunk and returning my cart I opened my door and found four loaves of bread and a package of bagels sitting on the driver's seat.  Huh???  I looked around.  There was another family getting into their own car one parking spot over, but aside from that, there were no other people around.  Where did the bread come from?  Why do I have it??   What the heck am I supposed to do with it?  Confused, I drove home with it.

There is a discount bread store across the street from the grocery store and that is where this bread came from.  I wonder if someone bought the bread and thought they would toss it in their car on the way into the grocery store to finish their shopping and mistook my car for theirs?  Did Someone spy the rusty minivan I drive and decide I need some charity?  I do feel a bit guilty that I might have someone else's groceries by mistake, but what was I supposed to do?

Well, I guess we're having French Toast for breakfast tomorrow! (And the next day, and the next day and the next day.....)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Springtime is for Sewing

Fresh off the sewing table: Simplicity Lisette 1893.  I made view B.   This fabric was part of the stash I acquired when I helped a friend clean out her craft room.  I loved this floral print.  I looked very hard for a pattern that would make the most of the gorgeous border print.  I mixed in the plaids because I love plaid and I think the colours all play very well together. My girl is on the tall side for her age so I added three inches to the skirt when I cut it out so I may get more than one summer out of this dress.

This project taught me a lot.  I got in over my head with the pieced bodice and hand-cut bias binding, but I persevered and learned a lot from those fiddly bits.  I did not sew the zipper in as the instructions asked as I could not make heads nor tails of the directions.  An experienced friend came to my rescue and showed me I was just over thinking the process.

Next up in the queue is a simple elastic-waist skirt for me.  No fiddly bits!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Nurse, heal thyself.

It happens so often now that no one looks up when I am in the kitchen and then I suddenly yelp and run out of the room.

I have it down to a science.

Once I am in my bathroom I grab a handful of toilet paper and press it to my wound, staunching the flow of blood while I grab my supplies.  With the hand not bleeding I root through my cupboard and find the gauze squares, tape, and bandaids.  I carefully open the packages and line my supplies up on my counter, maintaining asepsis as much as I can.  I drop the TP in the garbage, flush my wound under running water in the sink and then fold a square of gauze into quarters. I press the little square to my wound, add another layer or two of gauze and tape everything up tightly.  I run back to the kitchen and finish cooking dinner as best I can, keeping my injured hand elevated.  I make sure to pick out any food I might have bled on.

The next day I will de-bulk my wound, carefully taking the gauze padding off with a little help from my trusty squirt bottle of sterile saline.  I change the padding.  Often a small square of gauze taped on with a bandaid is enough as my cuts seal up nicely overnight.

Since no one will take over cooking duties, I wear one of these when I have my big knife out now.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nursing Moms

Nope. I'm not going to talk about breastfeeding today.  I am going to talk about nurses who are moms.  Nursing school was great preparation for the trials and tribulations of motherhood.  I know how much blood is too much.  I don't freak out when kids start vomiting or spike a fever.(although I do wish I had a housekeeping department to deal with the sheets!)  I learned how to get a baby on a decent sleep routine by working nights on a pediatric ward. (I also learned how to chart with my right hand while feeding a baby a bottle with my left--great practice for one-handed parenting!) I rarely get throw up on me since I can spot the signs a mile away and can easily dodge it.

I am sure my kids would tell you that having a mom who used to be a nurse is less than awesome.  You see, I have little to no sympathy for a booboo. No one can pretend to be sick to get out of school around here.  I need to see projectile vomit or a fever.  Sniffles?  Bye bye.  Vague complaint of tummy ache? Walk it off.

My kids love climbing on things and then falling off.  The first time Emmett did that he bit his lip.  It's a good thing I know from experience that lips tend to gush so I quickly picked him up and gave him a freezie to suck on.  The bleeding stopped in no time.  One morning Richard tripped and fell and split his eyebrow on a door frame.  I didn't want him taking up time in the Emergency Room for something not urgent  so I cleaned him up and taped the wound closed so he could wait for walk-in to open to get sutures.  When the time came to have them taken out, I did it. 

I am sure my friends get tired of me harping about the importance of vaccinating their kids, but unless you have seen truly sick people, you have no idea how crucial it is.  Also, woe is the civilian friend along on a play date with two or more nurses.  We have no filters for what is too gross to talk about.  Even though it has been years since I've donned scrubs and stethoscope, my gross filter has not re calibrated and I still love to hear a little shop talk from time to time.

So, this Nurses' week spare a thought for the brave souls who parent patients all day and then have to have patience to pull another shift with their own brood when they get home.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A memorable patient

In honour of nurses' week I am going to share with you a story that I will never forget.

Once upon a time I worked in the float pool of the hospital.  That means that when I went to work each day I had no idea where I was going to work until I was given my assignment at the beginning of my shift.  I traveled from ward to ward, wherever they needed the most help.

One day my travels landed me on a surgical ward.  General? Ortho? It doesn't matter.  All that matters is that I was visibly pregnant and my patient was a young man who still lived at home and worked on the family farm.

I had been taking care of this young man from the time he came to the floor out of the recovery room, still groggy from anaesthetic.  He was a sweet guy and very polite and co-operative with me.  A dream patient, really.   He had sailed through his operation and was recovering well. 

At one point in my shift, right before I was about to step into his room with the  BP machine to take another set of  vital signs, a nurses' aide stopped me in the hallway and asked me about my pregnancy.  She asked the usual questions: how are you feeling, any cravings, blah blah blah and then she asked how far along I was.  I was not as far along as she guessed by looking at my growing belly.  She then started to go on and on about how big I was and even had the nerve to ask me how much I weighed!  I tried to extricate myself from the situation as quickly as I could.  I walked up to my patient's bedside.  He had overheard the conversation in the hallway and could see that I was a little flustered.

He told me not to worry.  Cows show early and get big quickly when they are pregnant too.

I am pretty sure that young man didn't have a girlfriend.

It's Nurses' Week

According to my Facebook News feed, it's the beginning of Nurses' Week.  Once upon a time I was a nurse.  Some of my friends are still nurses.  Given that I am a stay-at-home-mom to three rather clumsy children, one of whom has some special needs, I still use the skills I learned every day. (Heck, I have a humdinger of a story about what happens when you give me a mandolin slicer that I will share with you later this week.  It ends with me being grateful I know how make and apply pressure dressings quickly.)

There are a myriad of reasons I left the profession.  The reason I give the most often is that I had too many babies in too short of a time span and the daycare fees cancelled out my pay cheque.  Give me a couple of glasses of wine and I will tell you the rest of the reasons. 

I am not here today to talk about that.  I am here today to tell you how much I appreciate those who could stick with a career I could not.  Unless you have done it for yourself you have NO IDEA what nurses do.  None.  Nurses handle literal and figurative shit every single day and there are few among us who could handle the level of stress they do all day every day.  I couldn't. 

I can tell you it doesn't take much to make a nurse's day.  A sincere Thank you from a patient or family member will often do it.  I am telling you this today because I bumped into a former patient yesterday.  She was my cashier at the grocery store.  As she was ringing me through she asked me "Are you Jennifer?" I said yes as I wracked my brain trying to place her face.  She went on to tell me that I took care of her in the hospital once.  In 2004. She has never forgotten the care I gave her. She made my day.  I am going to carry that glow for a few more days.  It's those moments that get you through the ones full of shit. 

Have you thanked a nurse lately?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

We can't all be Pinterest-Perfect

Charlotte turned 8 yesterday. She is in such a hurry to grow up.  She loves her birthday.  Me? I suffer anxiety at the thought of planning a party, dealing with invitations and RSVPs (why oh why do people seem to think responding to an invitation is optional??) and the cake.  The cake.  Every year I think I should just take the easy (and expensive) way out and order one from the grocery store.  Some years I do.  This year Charlotte asked for a chocolate cake with pink icing.  I thought to myself "I could do that!" Then I searched Pinterest.  Pinterest.  That mystical world where everything but preserves are put in Mason Jars and the world is carefully edited and filtered and curated into pretty little boxes.  Everything has to be home made in Pinterest land.  Everything.
Birthday girl
  A quick Pinterest search for "easy" birthday cakes shows me pictures of cakes that are far from easy.  Can beginners actually do this stuff??  If I tried to make that car or that airplane I would end up crying in a pile of cake crumbs before I knew it!! In fact, I have cried in a pile of cake crumbs.  And then a fondant-proficient friend came along and turned those crumbs into something more closely resembling the cake I envisioned.

"Easy" birthday cakes??  Really??
This looks a little more doable...

Close enough?

Well, Charlotte didn't get a Pinterest-perfect cake. The icing is from a can and  the writing looks like one of her brothers did it.  The sugar flowers came out of a box in the cake-decorating section at the local big-box store.

Thankfully my kids don't care if their world is Pinterest-perfect.  I need to stop caring a bit more too.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Living in a Bubble

We spent this past weekend visiting my inlaws.  For the kids, part of the fun of visiting Grandma and Grandpa is getting to watch TV.  We don't watch TV in the traditional sense in our house--we stream it via the internet so there are no commercials interrupting the shows we watch.  (tangent: you don't have to look very hard to find legal ways to stream movies and TV shows--Netflix and iTunes cost a pittance compared to a regular cable bill) When the kids watch TV at Grandma and Grandpa's, they (and I) are exposed to a barrage of advertising we are not used to.

This past weekend we spent most of our time on YTV.  The ads on this channel are predominantly aimed at children and women.  My kids mostly learned about toys they never knew they wanted and now feel they can't live without, and candy designed to horrify grown ups.  I learned that with two separate beauty products I could reduce 17 different signs of aging.  I learned that my kids need meal replacement shakes or they may die of malnutrition. So, kids need Many Things, and their moms need to stop aging so fast and feed their kids crap in between meals so they will be too full to eat real food at mealtimes and make the moms feel insecure about them not eating enough so they have to feed them more crap.  I learned that I am a terrible housekeeper if I don't use disposable dusters and mops and spray my furniture with perfumed antibacterial spray.  That sounds like an exhausting and expensive way to live.   The only ad I found a bit amusing was the one that taught me my laundry would be cleaner if I changed toilet paper brands.  Thanks for keepin' it real, Charmin.

Am I just more aware of the fact that commercials are designed to make me feel insecure because I don't see them very often? Do you get used to tuning the noise out over time? Does everyone just DVR and avoid the whole mess now?

I DO know that minimizing my exposure to TV ads has made me feel MUCH better about myself and my home.  I don't miss having cable one bit.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hurry Up, Spring

According to the calendar, it's Spring Time.  At this time of year I tend to put my knitting needles aside and turn my attention to my sewing machine.  What has motivated me even more this year is a big bag of fabric I got when I helped a friend clean out her craft room.  This friend used to work at a fabric store.  She had good stuff. I had to stop myself at just one garbage bag full.  This is the first project made from my new stash.  I have the best friends!

Simplicity New Look 6122, view A in a slinky poly-cotton knit. 
Things I learned:
  • take the time to hand baste the curvy bits to keep your seams from puckering.  Drapey fabric can be tricky to control.
  • The Cheater hem is awesome.  To finish the hem on this dress I cut 1/2" wide strips of fusible interfacing, ironed them on, turned the fabric on the interfacing and sewed.  That little trick helped me recover from accidentally cutting the skirt about an inch too short.  I was afraid I wouldn't be able to have the maxi length I wanted. Thankfully this fabric doesn't fray so I didn't have to roll up the hem twice anyway.  The interfacing is adding a bit of weight and body so the dress will still hang nicely.
  • I had better luck with the straps staying put by sewing them to the bodice through the elastic in the back and then adding another row of stitches over the seam line created when the casing was sewn.  This is contrary to the directions that say you should not sew the straps directly to the elastic at the top of the bodice.
Next up is a dress for Charlotte.

What are your crafty plans for the Spring? 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Something on Pinterest Worked!!!

Today's blog post won't cause the controversy that my previous post about bullying did.  I will warn you, though--there are some graphic photos.  Steel yourself....

My Kitchenaid Stand Mixer has been my loyal and steadfast kitchen companion for more than 10 years. In our decade together we have churned out countless batches of cookies, pizza crusts, vats of applesauce, mounds of grated vegetables and cheese, birthday cakes and cupcakes, and many other delicious things.

I had been noticing lately that my old buddy had been starting to sound a little off.  She had been starting to strain when faced with thick cookie dough or a large batch of bread dough.  Despite her showing her age a bit I was not ready to write her off.  We don't throw things out in our house just because they are starting to slow down a little.  We try to fix them.

Pinterest to the rescue!

A while back instructions on how to maintain a stand mixer showed up on my feed.  Of course I pinned it, thinking it might come in handy some day.

That day came this past weekend when I mentioned to Richard that Old Red might need a little TLC.    This is what happened next:
This will probably void your warranty.

This is the sludge that came out of the mixer. Gross!

All nice and clean and ready for fresh grease
The worst part was when Richard had to hammer a couple of rivets out.  Hammering my mixer!  My friend! It hurt!

Fortunately, the instructions I linked to are very thorough and Old Red was put back together and purring like a kitten in no time.  If you want to try this for yourself, do it in a very well ventilated area. Richard actually moved outside after these pictures were taken as the fumes from the Varsol he used to clean the gears was really strong.

Have you had a successful Pinterest experience lately?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Accidental activist

A year ago I wrote an essay about why I don't think wearing a pink t-shirt once a year is the best way to support anti-bullying efforts.  You can read it here.  You can learn more about the sweet gesture this day has stemmed from here.

Pink Shirt day rolled around again.  My local radio station hopped on the bandwagon and asked people to post pictures of themselves in their pink t-shirts on Facebook. (I even noticed one of my own personal Jr High bullies decked out in her anti-bullying pink on Facebook yesterday)

 I posted a link to my blog piece instead.  It kind of took off like wildfire and I inspired a very big debate on the radio station wall. Here is a small sample of the comments I received:

Click to see this full-size 

Click to see this full-size
My feelings about this day have not changed.  I still feel like it is a bandaid solution for a much bigger problem.  I still try daily to teach my kids not to be assholes, just like I said I did last year.
I got 1000 hits on my blog that day.  That is a record for me. I also got a couple of new comments that I'd like to address here.

Brianna said: Actually in school I was told that we wear pink on that day to honor a boy who was beaten up for wearing pink. You seem so passionate about the bullying issue but you get offended by this little anti bullying thing? I don't understand why it is such a big deal that your friend would go out of her way not to support it. You're really weird you know that? Pink day was a fun day at school and it encourages boys to wear whatever colours they want. It made my brother feel comfortable about his image too. on I am not wearing pink today. 

 Brianna: I feel like the gesture the friends of that boy in Nova Scotia who was beaten up was very sweet.  It was the sort of very sweet, personal gesture that the media seems to love to eat up and turn into a New Big Thing.  It was fantastic for the friends of that boy to stand up with him and help him.  I feel like it has become less personal now that it has been turned into a bandwagon.  I am very passionate about protecting myself and children from bullies.  Pink Shirt Day does not offend me, per se, but I feel like we need more than one day out of the year to address the many layers of issues that contribute to the problem of bullying.  That was what I was saying in my blog post last year.  I am very glad you had fun at school and that the pink shirt helped your brother stretch his wings and feel good about himself.  I hope you and your brother can keep that energy going and keep the anti-bullying message alive for more than just one day this year.  Yep. I am weird. That is probably why I was picked on so much in school.  It took me a very long time to learn to love and accept my weirdness.  Now I embrace it.

Cheribear said: It is so rare to see someone admit 'I am the parent of a bully!' - that is the problem I think. If we are all *anti-bullying' then everyone is against the bully. Nobody is owning that we are raising bullies, supporting bullies, and letting them get away with it. Anyone who has more than one child has probably witnessed their own child being a bully at home with their siblings. Is it much of a stretch to imagine your child exhibiting that *same* behavior in another setting - at school, on playdates, etc? The sooner that parents start admitting that their own children behave as bullies and addressing how to raise them not to behave that way, the better. Instead, we're just raising our kids to call out other kids on bullying and 'stand up against' bullying. Because none of *our* kids would do that. It's everyone else's kid! on I am not wearing pink today.

Thank you for your kind words, Cheribear.  That is the hard work of parenting, isn't it? Admitting when our precious little snowflakes might have a little mud on them that needs taking care of.

I guess by not wearing a pink shirt I still inspired debate and conversation and I got people thinking about how they really feel.  The pink shirt won anyway.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pictures from a Kub Kar Rally

If you are American, this might look like a Pinewood Derby to you.  If you are not a Scouting Family, then Kub Kars (and Pinewood Derby cars) are little wooden cars Scouts design and  build and race. In Canada, Beaver Scouts (the youngest members of Scouting) build and race Beaver Buggies while Cub Scouts build Kub Kars and the oldest Scouts build semi trucks.  I was amazed at the creativity shown in the designs of the cars.  Our boys didn't win any races, but Emmett took his losses with much more grace than Matthew did.  Charlotte came to the races in her Brownie uniform since we had a Guiding Spring Tea to attend right afterward.  It was a Scouting kind of weekend!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Oh Goody. Another Heavy Snowfall Warning.

“It can't beat us!" Pa said.
"Can't it, Pa?" Laura asked stupidly.
"No," said Pa. "It's got to quit sometime and we don't. It can't lick us. We won't give up."
Then Laura felt a warmth inside her. It was very small but it was strong. It was steady, like a tiny light in the dark, and it burned very low but no winds could make it flicker because it would not give up.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter

At this time last year Charlotte tried to go to a winter camp but it was so warm there was no snow and the girls could play in shirt sleeves.  This year the snow is still hip-deep in my front yard and there is more coming.

Winter will end eventually, won't it????

Friday, March 15, 2013

Goodbye, Google Reader

If you are reading this on a feed reader you are probably aware that in the near future Google Reader will be shutting down.  If you don't use a feed reader you have probably heard one or more of your friends whining about this online.

I was one of the many Google Reader users who ranted on Facebook over the the past few days and, through friends, tried to figure out which of the other feed readers online I should switch to.  So far I have looked into FIVE readers.  The following is a synopsis of my experience with four of them.  If you could care less about feed readers, maybe check back another day.  There is a Cub Car rally tomorrow so rest assured there will be cute pictures of my boys appearing with their handmade race cars soon.

If you are trying to figure out how you are going to read your blogs after this summer, read on.  Maybe I can help.

My first step in choosing a new feed reader was trying to figure out what I needed beyond "But I want Google Reader to stay!!!  I don't want to learn new things!!!  I want everything online to stay the same always!!!!  Wahhhhhhhhh!!!!"  Here is what I came up with:
  • It had to be easy to figure out
  • The new reader had to be visually appealing and give me pictures with my preview
  • It had to be easy to add and delete blogs
  • It had to be easy to import my feeds
I checked out the following readers:
Brief add-on for Firefox
The Old Reader

Newsblur I eliminated from the running immediately when I read that you only get 64 sites with 10 stories at a time with their free service. That simply won't work for me when I know there are a plethora of free sites to choose from.

I started by exporting my Google Reader Subscriptions and saving them to my computer.

Next, I gave NetVibes a try. I found it very easy to import my subscriptions.  I liked the tabbed browsing option that gave me the option of adding my Twitter, Facebook and email feeds to the browser.  The preview page is customizable with several options, including one that looks very similar to my beloved Google Reader.  The "widget" option is cool if you don't need pictures as you can sort your feeds into a columns if you so desire. It is very easy to add and subtract feeds.

Brief is a Firefox app that is very simple in appearance.  I did not find the controls as intuitive as the start page insists they are and I haven't figured out if there is a way to sort your feeds  or not.( I had to figure out Live Bookmarks via a Yahoo message board to learn how to add feeds, for example)  If you don't follow many feeds and like something you can quickly scroll through (and you are a Firefox user) This might be the feed reader for you.

I really wanted to like Feedly.  It is the prettiest feed reader out of the bunch I tried.  The magazine-style layout is really neat at first, but then I realized there was something sinister going on.  I felt like it was choosing what to put on the front page based on the popularity of the blog so bigger blogs were being featured while those of my friends were being shunted down to the bottom of the list.  I kept having the nagging feeling that I was missing stuff when I visited the site.  I guess I like that list on my sidebar to go along with the preview page. Also, since you sign in to Feedly with your Google account I wonder what will happen to my subscriptions when Reader goes away, as I didn't import my .xml file to them--they just grabbed it from Google.

I signed up to try out The Old Reader based on good reviews from my friends, but I fear it is a victim of it's own new found popularity right now.  I am currently 19659 on their list to import my subscription file.  I wonder how long the growing pains will last with them.  They have a cute mom-and-pop feel, but dude, I want a new reader NOW!

At the moment I am liking Brief and Netvibes the most, but I think Netvibes will probably win my ultimate feed-reading affections, especially since Netvibes was very easy to access from my tablet as well as my desktop. None of these readers are Windows phone compatible so I use Feed Reader Free on my phone.

Do you use a feed reader?  Which one?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

And now for a little musical interlude....

Charlotte started studying violin at her old school last year.  We have continued her musical education with private lessons since her new school does not have a violin program.  She has shown some real progress this year with private lessons and I am so proud of her for sticking with it, even though practicing is not very much fun sometimes.

Recording this to "show my friends" was her motivation to practice yesterday.

Thanks for helping us!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I know, it's been a while.

Happy New Year!  Christmas and New Year flew by in a flurry of food, family and, unfortunately, illness.  A horrid virus swept through the house right after Christmas and had us all flattened one by one.  I am just coming up for air now.

I knew my energy was coming back when I decided last week that my kitchen cupboards and our home office needed to be sorted and purged RIGHT NOW. 

This cuts into blogging time.

So, can I welcome you back to my blog with a story?

We tried to take the family out for a new experience.  Our city is hosting a cultural fair this weekend and as it turns out, Richard is crazy for Ethiopian food so we took the boys over to the Ethiopian pavilion to experience some authentic cuisine.

Things I learned tonight:
  • I loved listening to the music being played in the pavilion. To my untrained Caucasian ear I heard hints of Egypt and India in the rhythms and instruments.
  • Ethiopian coffee is the best.  Sorry, Italy. Your Espresso will always hold a place in my heart ever since my lovely in-laws gave me a gorgeous machine for Christmas. You force my eyes open all the way every morning,but the Ethiopian coffee ceremony is something very special and the coffee is so. very. tasty. 
 If only you could smell what is happening in this video...

  • In addition to coffee, I also enjoyed a Dragon Stout.  Dragon Stout is a dark beer that was on the list of Ethiopian Beers at the bar at the pavilion. Upon inspection of the label I found out it is actually brewed in Kingston Jamaica at the Red Stripe brewery.  Google told us when we got home that Ethiopia and Jamaica are connected through the Rastafarian movement. It is a strong but mellow beer.  I have recently started expanding my beer horizons and surprised myself by enjoying stout as much as I do.  (that is another blog post!)

  • Matthew caught on very quickly to eating with injera.  I shouldn't be surprised. I beg him to eat with utensils all the time.  For once, it was OK for him to eat with his hands! Emmett was very overwhelmed by the loud music, unusual food and general commotion.  He spent the evening hunched over Angry Birds with the hood of his jacked pulled right over his head.  Charlotte was away for the weekend so she missed the whole thing.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I'm a Bzz Agent

From time to time I get free products to sample and review from a company called Bzz Agent.  I was really happy to receive my latest shipment from Burt's Bees.  I really like Burt's Bees products and this recent shipment did not disappoint.  I was given two products from the Intense Hydration line to sample: the cleanser and night cream.

I am really picky about cleansers.  They have to be strong enough to remove waterproof eyeliner and mascara but not dry out or irritate my sensitive skin.  I was very happy to find that this particular cleanser is rich, creamy, non-drying and easily removes my makeup.  The addition of clary sage lends a lovely gentle scent.  This cleanser does not lather, but I have learned that ingredients that lather are ingredients that are usually the most drying to skin.

This time of year I cannot moisturize my skin enough.  The night cream is very thick and rich but does not feel greasy on my skin at all.  In fact, it absorbs very quickly so I can even use it under my makeup to give a nice, smooth base.  I have found with regular use of this night cream I have not had to exfoliate with a separate AHA cream like I usually do in the winter.

I have shared samples with a few friends and all of them have reported they love how fast the cream absorbs and that it does not feel greasy at all, despite how moisturizing it is.  They all liked the lovely light herbal scent.

If your skin reacts badly to winter you might want to try the  Burt's Bees Intense Hydration Line out for yourself.